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On embracing uncertainty

It’s the same scenario: a fresh start somewhere new: a space, a job, a project. We arrive with fresh eyes, eager and excited for the challenge.

But an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty creeps over us when we start looking around, the anxiety of feeling out of our depth.

As pattern-making machines, our brains find the lack of clarity in what to expect difficult to handle. We need systems, schemes, routines, patterns. We expect them.

From the moment we’re born, most of us are thrown into a world of order and rules. We need stability and regularity for healthy development. It’s hardly possible to grow – even less thrive – in an environment of unclear expectations.

The need to see things coming made our species literally rise from the ground and stand on two legs to view danger from afar.

It moved us away from survival mode, and made us live life rather than just struggle to stay alive. It made us humans.

Uncertainty can work against us. What we don’t know has density and gravity: it may feel heavy, intense, burdening and overwhelming us while we try to contemplate, define or box it up neatly.

We can try to minimise it or ignore it, but never completely remove it from our lives.

So then anxiety kicks in, and we start to doubt ourselves, second-guessing our own instincts and abilities.

But if we keep breathing and not let the fear and doubt take over, we may see that it is in those spaces where we feel wobbly and unsure that we can put what we think we know in suspense (between brackets) and focus on uncovering and discovering the unknown.

As long as we allow our curiosity and ingenuity to take the lead.

As Quixote told Sancho, ‘the road is better than the inn’. It’s in the journey, in the process of going somewhere, that adventure may happen.

Thus we must embrace the discomfort of not knowing and the inaccuracy in our expectations, and accept uncertainty as part of the deal.

Learn to navigate and even enjoy it. And to trust that the process will take us where we need to be.

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